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Basketball Offensive Scheme Break Down and A Quick Look at the Pitt Offense

In the last game thread, after the Seminoles played their best game of the season, there were number of questions regarding offensive sets. In this post, I will break down two commonly used offenses, or at least ones that you may have heard of: motion offense and the dribble drive motion offense.

At the end, I will comment a little on Pitt's offense, which has been dominating early this season. I'll also try to piece together or describe what kind of offense FSU is running.

This is a long I have tried to break it up into clear sections in case you would like to return...Hope you enjoy it!

Motion Offense:

The motion offense is one of the most commonly used offensive sets in basketball, and is one commonly taught to high school teams. It isn't necessarily based on "set" offensive plays, but based on rules/principles. There are variations to the motion offense that have a "set play" component to them, but I'll focus on the core of the motion offense. The idea of the motion offense is attributed to Henry Iba at Oklahoma State. Bob Knight took what Iba developed and morphed it into his own form, using more screens than Iba had previously. As you can imagine, the motion offense has developed more variations than you can imagine.

The major principle of the motion offense is that movement with a purpose and patience will result in baskets. This is dependent on spacing, ball movement (espescially by passing), player movement and getting the ball inside to the post. These principles are intended to ensure someone is always open to shoot or pass. The nice thing about it is that you can run this offense against any kind of defense, your motion/screening is dependent on the reaction of the defense. Variations can be added into it to improve efficiency of the offense. You can also change the offense based on the strengths of your players. If all players have similar skill sets you can rotate freely through the offense. If you have a great inside player you can rotate to get the ball inside. The purpose of any offense is to get the ball into the hand of your best scorer with the opportunity to score. Doing so will eventually open up other players on the team. 

3-out, 2-in motion offense set

This is the typical set that starts the motion offense, also known as a 3-Out, 2-In set. This can be changed to have a 4-Out, 1-In or even a 1-3-1 set up. Ideally the 1 should bring the ball up the court.

Now for the more specific rules:

1. Spacing: Players should be at least 12-15 feet away from each other. this spreads the floor and opens up passing lanes. This helps to prevent double teams and can limit some defensive schemes.

2. Players should look to shoot, pass or dribble. Duh! But it's different in this scheme. Patience is a must and players must wait until they have the three options available in order to execute the offense. Obviously, that is not an ultimatum. Typically players hold the ball for a 2 count before passing, shooting or driving. This allows screens to develop and cutters to move. If a trap is coming...pass the ball immediately. And this is the point of having triple threat players: ones that can shoot, pass and dribble. Dribbling should be used to attack the basket, open passing lanes and to get out of trouble. The ball should not be immediately put on the floor in this offense.

3. Players must move with out the ball. 5 guys with concrete in their shoes and a limited understanding of the offense is a set up for poor outcomes. Offensive movement without the ball is lethal to defenses. It increases their work, confusion and limits their ability to trap. It forces them to focus for extended periods during a possession. After making a pass, a player should cut to the hoop, screen away, pick and roll, v-cut and replace his position on the court. The cuts made should depend on how the defense is playing. If they are over-playing (up close, cutting of the passing lane) a back cut to the hoop works well. If they sag, a v-cut will get you open. A sagging defensive player also allows for an open shot.

3-out, 2-in motion offense, cutting

The key to this offense is a point guard that can protect the ball and pass. It also requires agile low post players that can screen and roll off each other to get open. Perimeter players must be able to shoot and dribble. Chris Singleton is an ideal player to have in this scheme. Sean Kearney, Head Coach at Notre Dame says that he loves the motion offense in that it is difficult to scout and defend. He stresses to his players to get the ball inside to the big men and to be patient while they, the two big men, work together to get open for in the inlet pass. Here is a great article that he wrote about the offense.

Here is a nice animation of the motion offense. Look at the movement of the players with out the ball and the spacing. Rarely do you see two players side by side with the ball. Now this seems to be very coordinated and it can be, but a lot of motion offense is simply based on players dictating the game, not coaches coordinating every play. This is why many coaches are reluctant to use it, particularly with inexperienced teams with limited playing time together. Sound familiar? Yes...the Seminoles. I think this is the type of offense that Hamilton hopes to run, but we're not getting the movement needed to be effective. Plus, we have had difficulty getting the ball into Alabi on a regular basis, except for the last game.

Here is a youth basketball video demonstrating some of the principles of the spread offense. Now this shows a 4-Out, 1-In offense, slightly different from what is shown above.This is how it typically sets up out of the transition:

4-out 1-in motion offense High set4-out 1-in motion offense Low set

This is better for teams with limited post players and is typically seen with shorter lineups. This is likely the base that Northwestern used against us. The spread the floor, lulled us to sleep with multiple passes and then had easy cuts to the basket.

To summarize: The motion offense is a fluid scheme based on spacing that requires continuous movement without the ball and requires an understanding of defensive positioning. It can be tedious to watch. It can be tedious to defend. This is not a run and gun style offense. This is the pass, pass, pass, dribble a little, pass...oh wait where did he come from type of offense. It can be very effective and it is practical because it can be run out of many different looks against any defense. However, if your team doesn't move nor do they have the complement of basic skills, it will not work and coaches will get frustrated as their team makes mistake after mistake.

Make sense? If not let me know what isn't clear and I'll try my best to explain. It's hard to show/diagram because there is a ton of fluidity. Teams will run set screens and the like from this offense to creat certain match ups. But for the most part, its moving and anticipation and a solid basketball IQ is a must.

Continue reading for a breakdown of the "Dribble Drive Motion" offense (DDM), and a unique breakdown of Pitt and FSU offenses.

Now...onto the currently popular Dribble Drive Motion Offense.

Dribble Drive Motion:

The Dribble Drive Motion offense has recently been popularized by John Calipari and the Memphis Tigers. It was originally developed by Vance Walberg at Fresno City College and called the "AASAA" offense: attack, attack, skip, attack attack." Kind of a mouthful eh? So Calipari changed it to the Dribble-Drive Motion. Clearly the guiding principle of this offense is guard dribble penetration. You need an aggressive player that has excellent ball handling skills that can score amongst the big guys or pass the ball extremely well. Look at Dereck Rose...he ran this offense in Memphis last year and possesed those traits and has fortunately translated his skills to the next level with my Chicago Bulls.This offense is based on the motion offense above, but it differs from the classic "Princeton" offense which is a motion offense dependent on back door passes (this is what Northwestern runs now) and Bob Knight's motion offense dependent on screens. This does neither. It is predicated on spacing the floor and driving to the basket. The big man does not go to the ball side of the court...he goes to the weak side, opening up the lane for dribble penetration.

If you want the history of the dribble must read this fascinating article from Grant Wahl on watch this video. The video is Donnie Jones, Marshall's Basketball coach, breaking down Memphis game tape. The tv screen he is viewing is quite small, but listening to his comments clearly helps you to understand the purpose of the dribble drive motion.

This of this offense as setting up the pass based on dribble penetration. Set plays are not necessary if there is good spacing and all five players on the court have excellent understanding of basketball and move without the ball. The purpose of the offense is what Walberg, the guy who developed the offense, calls "key or three."  Drive and kick out to the open man on the three point line or dump it to someone breaking to the top of the key. You can also dump it to the big man coming from the weak side of the block. Pomeroy states that defense should force oposing teams to take the midrange jumpshot as it is easier to defend...however, if you cause the defense to collapse on the guard...those shots magically open.

Here is an example from CoachesClipboard:


dribble-drive motion offense

The "squiggle," as it is called is the dribble penetration by the guard. Look at the huge number of options he has depending on how the defense reacts. The thought on this sequence is that 1 drives, kicks to 2 (Diagram A). 2 then drives and kicks to 4. (Diagram B). Then four immediately passes to three who can drive and either shoot, or dump to 5 or 1. Theorhetically, 1 can then bring the ball t the top of the key and start all over again. Imagine if you had a guard, like a Derrick Rose, that can blow past the defense and score if he wanted to. This forces the defense to respect his ability and collapse on him opening up passing lanes. Remember what the three options were for the motion offense: shoot, drive or pass...this still allows you to do that but it is initiated with a dribble drive rather than passing the ball around the top.

Here is another article from the Daily Collegian that breaks down the offense even more. Its a long one so take your time. I think this quote from really sums it up: "If there is help, he finds the open man for either a shot if on the perimeter or a dump-off to the post. Driving lanes are created by great spacing and constant hunting of open areas for kick-outs." Athleticism is key for such an offense. The perimiter players must be able to attack the basket and your big man must be agile to move around the post freely. This type of offense allows for a ton of offensive rebounds. Your guard is not going to make every lay-up he attempts in this offense. The nice thing about this offense is that it can be run out of any set: 2-3, 5-Out, 2-2-1 etc...

Make sense? Think tall athletic teams that attack the rim and, again, have a good understanding of basketball.

Pitt's Offense:

Tomorrow night we take on an oustanding Pitt team, who is playing their first of three away games in a row at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee. So what do they run...a 4-Out, 1-In Motion offense with Blair being the "In." They are patient and they play very discplined basketball. Pitt plays a very similar game to the Noles; I'll break down the match up more tomorrow in the Game Preview. I just wanted to highlite their motion offense in light of this discussion. They do not like to get out and run. They want to grind it out and lull you to sleep. Check out this article for a really detailed analysis of their offense. I like that the author notes that each time a player gets a ball they are a triple threat: dribble drive, shoot or pass. Pitt's lowest point total this year is 57 against Washington St. However, they haven't played anyone yet with the exception of WSU. We have had a more difficult schedule and have played more games on the road. They have only played two games away from Pitt in Newark, NJ at a neutral site. Don't get me wrong...they are damn good.

                      Offense               Defense
Raw Efficiency : 119.0 ( 4) 86.2 ( 19)
Adj Efficiency : 122.5 ( 3) 83.6 ( 13)

Effective FG% : 53.4 ( 46) 42.6 ( 26)
Turnover Pct. : 17.7 ( 32) 21.7 (139)
Off. Rebound% : 44.0 ( 6) 30.0 ( 80)
Free Throw Rate: 23.5 (189) 22.7 ( 9)

3-Point FG% : 35.7 (116) 31.2 ( 95)
2-Point FG% : 53.3 ( 38) 40.2 ( 20)
Free Throw Pct.: 67.1 (196) 68.5 (175)
Block Pct. : 6.6 ( 67) 10.6 ( 90)
Steal Pct. : 8.0 ( 51) 13.1 ( 26)

3PA/FGA : 27.6 (287) 35.8 (265)
A/FGM : 63.4 ( 32) 55.7 (184)

Look at the offensive numbers. Don't get scared yet....we'll talk more tomorrow. They shoot the ball well, they rebound extremely well and this is in part due to the style of their offense. They dribble drive and it allows Blair to clean up around the hoop. We will be helped that we are actually a bigger team than Pitt. The big question will be if we can use it to our advantage. More tomorrow. Just a pallete cleanser.

FSU Offense:

So what do we do? I have only been able to see two games on tv so its hard to say with any certainty. But it seems that Hamilton would like to play a hybrid motion/dribble drive motion offense. We have been sluggish on offense so far this year as we have been "figuring" it out. We're getting used to moving off the ball and knowing where players will end up. Our tempo is slow, which is characteristic of a motion offense. I think with the increased playing time of Kitchen our offense will develop into a more dribble drive like offense, particularly with Singleton on the wing. It will allow Douglas to get to his spots and shoot rather than being the one driving. Part of our problem has been the limited experience of ouf guards and not hammering the ball inside to Alabi. In our last game he had significantly more touches and tore it up. He needs the ball on a regular basis, even if he doesn't shoot. It helps to increase the spacing on the floor as it draws the defense to the middle as he receives the ball.

Phew...did you make it all the way to the end? Let me know your thoughts. Was this helpful? Wanting more? I'm happy to break down more offenses and defenses as well. Next week I'll have a post up about player development under Hamilton.